Welcome to Atlanta, where tech jobs abound: with almost 14,000 open IT occupations at any given time on average, metro Atlanta has an even higher concentrated demand for IT than the rest of the country. And while graduates coming out of the region’s top universities can fill many of these slots, companies shouldn’t overlook technical talent with a less-traditional background, such as those emerging from the dozen-plus coding bootcamps and technical schools in the city.
This is one of the challenges being addressed by TechHire ATL, part of the federal TechHire initiative focused on filling the half a million open tech jobs in the U.S. Last March, Atlanta was named one of 15 TechHire cities by the White House; that number has since expanded to 72 across the country.
This Friday applications will open to begin recruiting students, ages 17-29, to join TechHire ATL’s inaugural class.
The funding for the program, a $4 million Department of Labor grant, comes as part of Atlanta’s TechHire designation. TechSquare Labs has partnered with WorkSource Atlanta, a city initiative, and coding school Thinkful, to spend that money training about 360 junior software developers over the next three years in software development, career readiness, and culture fit.
“Over the next three years, nearly four hundred new diverse junior software developers will have the opportunity to enter Atlanta’s technology workforce,” says Rodney Sampson, Partner at TechSquare Labs. “TechHire will provide these new coders with the hard and soft skills. It’s then up to Atlanta employers — large and small — to do their part in offering these young men and women their first technical jobs and the opportunity to improve their products and market share in under-tapped communities.”
What will the program look like? Completely free thanks to the TechHire grant, students will learn 5 days a week for 5 months. The Web Development bootcamp-style class lets students work with mentors who currently work as developers. They’ll also learn things like the fundamentals of entrepreneurship and how to prepare for job interviews.
These students, drawn largely from Atlanta’s low-income communities, could yield a potential economic output of $20 million annually.
The education portion of the program will address the first challenge being combatted by TechHire: limited access to education. To address the second challenge — getting current employers to look at candidates with less-traditional educational backgrounds — TechHire is also building an Employee Advisory Council, with representation drawn from Atlanta’s top technical employers.
Members of the Council will commit to not only shaping the next generation of Atlanta’s technical talent by providing mentorship and curriculum guidance, but also helping provide TechHire graduates with internships, apprenticeships, and jobs.
“The Employer Advisory Board is intended to drive the creation of new training solutions to address other pressing talent needs,” says Amit Khanduri, Business Development Manager of WorkSource Atlanta. For example, he says if a Council member says there is a lack of talent with cybersecurity skills, TechHire can identify or create a curriculum to fill that dearth.
“We also ask that they (the Council) engage in this broader conversation, drive the creation of new training solutions, and ultimately help expand access to IT jobs,” says Khanduri.